Los Angeles Streetwear brand Homme+Femme has launched a collaboration with Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby, which kicks off Saturday, May 7th, 2022. This capsule collection combines the elevated, rich, and historic traditions of the Kentucky Derby through the unique, modern lens of streetwear fashion. Founder Drew Evans pulled heavily from the legacy of Black horsemen and the Kentucky Derby as a main source of inspiration, recognizing the influence of African Americans on the sport.
EBONY chatted with Evans to discuss the innovative collaboration and using streetwear as a medium to merge cultures while bringing “Compton to Kentucky”:
How did this collaboration with Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby come to be?
My friend Valerie Bruce, who’s from Louisville, said to me one day, “Drew, do you know that the first few winners of the Kentucky Derby were African American?” I had no idea. She continued, “It would be dope if you could do something with the Kentucky Derby.” It sounded really good at the time, but I did not think that the Kentucky Derby would care about what I have going on.
Lo and behold, she connected us with some of her friends back home and the next thing you know, we were on a conference call with the Derby. And it became real to me and my team and I just got super excited and immediately started designing. At first, I was unsure of how I would be able to kind of merge the two. On the fashion side, Homme + Femme comes from a streetwear point of view and I look at the Kentucky Derby as a very large, upper echelon, high society event. Nevertheless, we sent over the designs and I guess the timing was right because they loved everything.
Coming from the streetwear fashion realm and having an understanding of the Kentucky Derby as ultimately being elite with a rich history, what did your design process entail in an effort to merge the two worlds?
Our main goal was to make sure that we not only preserve the rich history of the Kentucky Derby and its aesthetic appeal, we wanted to also make sure that we put our own twist on it from our perspective of modern streetwear. Our brand, in general, is supposed to emerge to bridge the gap between what we consider to be streetwear and luxury fashion in this modern era. To start this process, our team, wanted to look back at African American history through the Derby, given that the first few jockeys ever to compete in the event were African American. We want to pay homage to that so that kids of today may have a reason to be connected and excited about the Derby.
The Derby sent us over other Pantone colors that are associated with the brand and we decided which ones would work for us. My team and I then decided that one of the main pieces that we wanted to be incorporated within the collaboration would be a cardigan, which is very classy. Back in those early days, they called cardigans workout blazers, which we thought would be cool to emulate. The letterman jacket has also been really successful for us. We were one of the first streetwear brands to really like bring back the letterman jacket a few years ago. Therefore, Homme+Femme wanted to make a letterman jacket that felt like winning a championship trophy vibe. Then, of course, one of the most synonymous pieces with streetwear is our t-shirts and hats. So we created a t shirt that includes a horse in a winner’s circle with the Kentucky Derby classic bed of roses and trophies. We also did a TwinSpires inspired shirt and a Churchill Downs arena scene with the Millionaire’s Row patch on the front. Millionaire’s Row is one of the places you can watch the Derby from at Churchill Downs, which I didn’t know beforehand.
As previously mentioned, Valerie really helped us with the small subtleties and the inclusion of things that really mattered like having a patch that showcased African American jockeys as the center of the Earth. It’s a really dope collection that is going to get a lot of excitement from younger generations as well as people who are more traditionally involved with the Derby. So I think it definitely does the job of merging the two cultures.
Fashion truly is a tool to both document history and expose generations to new culture. How have you seen that manifest culturally and through the work you do?
To me, fashion is art. If you look at different time periods in history, societal change was commonly expressed through fashion, art, and activism, primarily. When Coco Chanel’s first collection came to be back in the 1900s, some people saw her work as a representation of women’s rights and the sophistication of a professional woman. In my opinion, a timeless clothing collection is like a dope painting from Basquiat or Picasso. Furthermore, this collaboration with Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby is not only an expressive way of showing our respect for the Derby but also letting future generations know that we’re here and made our mark in history.
Take a peak at pieces from the full collection, which drops May 5th, 2022 at 9PM ET/6PM PT, below: